Andrew Sanchez: Andrew Sanchez: Relative Precarity: Decline, Hope and the Politics of Work

Welcome to a lecture by Andrew Sanchez, University of Cambridge, followed by an open discussion.

After the seminar, coffee and snacks are served in our lunch room. The seminar is open to all, no registration required.


Based on ethnographic fieldwork among industrial workers in the Indian city of Jamshedpur, this paper explores the political distinctions that divide insecurely employed people. By comparing the political discourses of a corporate workforce whose employment security has declined during the past two decades, with an insecure labour force in the informal sector, this paper historicizes the condition of precarity relative to one’s experience of social change. For recently precarious labourforces in Jamshedpur’s automotive sector, an historical experience of labour struggle and employment security allows for faith in the capacity for social advancement. By contrast, workers in the city’s scrap metal yards lack such historical reference points, and tend to doubt the capacity for positive change. Drawing upon anthropological analyses of hope and temporality, this paper describes how the daily life of labour politics is structured by popular understandings of historical process, and critiques the concept of a homogenous class of global ‘precariats’.

About Andrew Sanchez

Andrew Sanchez is a specialist on the anthropology of class, labour and corruption, and has conducted ethnographic fieldwork in urban India among industrial workers, trade unionists and entrepreneurs.

He is the author of ‘Criminal Capital: Violence, Corruption and Class in Industrial India’ (Routledge 2015), which considers how experiences of dispossession relate to criminality in corporations and political institutions.

Andrew earned his PhD in anthropology from the London School of Economics and Political Science in 2009. Prior to joining the University of Cambridge, he held teaching and research positions at the LSE, the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology, and the University of Kent.

Research Interests

Capitalism, Class, Corruption, Economy, India, Industry, Organised Crime, Urban Anthropology, Work and Labour.

Andrew is currently conducting an ethnographic study of the Indian scrap metal industry, which addresses key conceptual debates in the anthropology of value, exchange and work. From 2018 he will begin new research in the UK, which considers how conditions of uncertainty affect political and economic decision making for the urban poor.

Seminar contact: Keir James Cecil Martin

Published Feb. 2, 2017 9:51 PM - Last modified Feb. 15, 2017 2:51 PM